A recent study by Empty Tomb, an Illinois based research organization shows some troubling signs for church giving. From 2007 to 2008, churches saw a decrease of $20.02 in per member gifts.
On the other hand, giving to nonprofit organizations like World Vision, Campus Crusade and others increased by $41.59.
In short, people have decreased their giving to their local church while increasing their giving to nonprofits. Why? Certainly, one factor is that churches tend to have high overhead—gifts go to fund debt, buildings, and salaries. Those have little appeal to the average giver.
Nonprofits however can typically boast of more direct impact. Nonprofits tend to keep their overhead low so that the majority of dollars given go directly to impact individuals and individual programs.
The average church spends more than 85% of their budget on “congregational finances”—salaries, utilities, buildings and maintenance. Christian Smith, the Director of Center for the Study of Religion and Society, noted that Christians hold back because of distrust over the use of finances and lack of teaching from the pulpit.
In a time where competition is fierce for giving dollars, churches must adjust. They must begin to think more programmatically instead of operationally. The day of “if you build it and they will come,” is not the mode. Churches must begin to think more like nonprofits and justify the wise use of the giving dollar.
Otherwise, the gap between church and nonprofit might grow larger.
William High is the President/General Counsel of the Servant Christian Community Foundation. Servant’s mission is to inspire, teach and facilitate revolutionary biblical generosity. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.